Get access

Reticulate evolution on a mosaic of soils: diversification of the New Caledonian endemic genus Codia (Cunoniaceae)


Jérôme Munzinger, Fax: (+687) 26 43 26; E-mail:


We reconstructed the evolutionary history of Codia, a plant genus endemic to the New Caledonia biodiversity hotspot in the southwest Pacific, using three single-copy nuclear genes. It seems likely that more than half of Codia species have a hybrid origin, but in the absence of cytological information, it is not known whether polyploids occur. Adaptation to ultramafic soils is possibly a plesiomorphic character for the entire genus. We found that species of hybrid origin can have some morphological characters absent in putative parental species, that is, they exhibit transgressive phenotypes. There is evidence of considerable range alteration post-origin in several species because some likely parental species of hybrid taxa no longer co-occur and are confined to putative rainforest refugia; in some cases, hybrid species do not now co-occur with either of their parental species. These results have implications for the design of conservation strategies, for example, prioritization of parental species for ex-situ conservation and preservation of the contact zones between soil types where hybridization is more likely to occur (i.e. conserving the possibility for the process to continue rather than trying to conserve taxa).